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A Trainer's Responsibility

Today's post is a little more on the serious side of things.

As a dog trainer and, more importantly, as someone that my clients invite into their homes and lives, where they entrust me with the well-being of their family member(s), it is my responsibility to ensure that I am doing the best that I can for each and every one of them. Every time. I believe strongly that the things I say to my clients need to be things that I understand and am comfortable with, and I work very hard to ensure that my conversations with my clients are candid, educational, and supportive. I am a "why" person, and I am honest about the training advice that I give and why I suggest certain methods over others. This is going to sound cheesy as all get out, but I couldn't live with myself if I did otherwise.

You guys, no one has as many dogs in their bedroom at one time as I do if they don't really, really love dogs (or if they're not engaged to someone who really, really loves dogs... don't feel bad for him; he knew what he was getting into).

In my opinion, it is a trainer's responsibility to address issues - especially those that are behavioural in nature - specifically, in person, and not on any general platform. That's why I don't post "How To" type posts, it's why I won't give training advice over the phone 99.9% of the time, and why my virtual sessions are typically reserved for introductions and general information, rather than specific training plans and solutions. There are SO MANY things that can affect a dog's behaviour and decisions at any given time, and I need to experience an environment and see the dog in action in that environment before I will feel 100% confident in what I'm saying or suggesting. Sure, I can and will speculate on minor challenges that people are experiencing, but I make very sure to stress that I'm speculating; until I see it, and FEEL it (yes, also cheesy) I don't feel that it's responsible for me to do more.

So why bother with the blog posts?

Dog training can be complicated. It can be extremely emotionally charged, it can be confusing, and it can be isolating. There is SO MUCH information out there, much of it contradictory, and it can be easy to feel like you're in way over your head when you're trying to pick your way through it. My blog posts are meant to provide my clients and the public with different perspectives and ways of looking at things in order for them to feel more at home with all that information. Do I think that training a dog and building a fence are the same thing? Obviously not. But I DO think that there are helpful everyday parallels that we can use to connect those ideas, while encouraging people to find and work with trainers whose philosophies and methodologies are in alignment with their own. I think that some humour can go a long way, and I enjoy playing with words and concepts that might give someone some insight into something that may have otherwise seemed completely foreign.

There's a joke that's been floating around in the dog training world for as long as I've been a trainer: "The only thing two dog trainers can agree on, is that the third trainer is wrong."

- Unknown

I'll happily admit to being the odd woman out when it comes to that particular stereotype, because I honestly believe that there are opportunities for all three of the trainers in that scenario to be "right" in some way, in almost every situation. If there's one thing I've learned in the last 17 years, it's that the trainers I look up to the most are the trainers who don't marry their methods, who continue to learn throughout their entire careers, who challenge their own ideologies, and who are open to listening to things that don't necessarily jive with their personal philosophies. That DOESN'T mean that they have to agree with them, by the way. It just means that I think that everyone has something good to offer, if you'll take the time to really listen to what they have to say.

I am grateful for people who disagree with me. Yes, you heard that right. Because when people disagree with me, it gives me additional cause to evaluate my methods and how I'm using the tools in my tool box. It ensures that I'd best be brushed up on the why's of my trade. And often, it means that I've been given the opportunity to learn something new. Something that I might be able to share one day with a client who really needs it.

I hold myself accountable to my clients, and to the dogs that they've hired me to help them with. For me, that means that I don't offer generalized advice on the vast majority of dog training subjects, and it means that I feel it is my responsibility to ensure that my clients feel comfortable, knowledgeable, and confident with the why and how of every aspect of the training plans that I've provided them with.

So here's an open invitation to anyone who reads this post, or any of the others like it: If you ever come across something that I've written, and you don't understand why I've said something a particular way, or what I was trying to get at with a certain analogy, please ask me why. I'd love to share that information with you, and I'd love the opportunity to do better; for my clients, for their dogs, and for the industry itself.


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